A. Sherrod Blakely's Truth And Rumors

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A. Sherrod Blakely's Truth And Rumors

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON During a rare Boston Celtics practice recently, there was a familiar face on the floor: Delonte West.

When West returns to action and all indications are that it will be sometime next month the Celtics will gradually phase him in.

But it won't be long before he's playing his usual minutes.

When that happens, somebody's minutes are going to be cut.

And when you look at this Celtics' roster, it's quite obvious that the most likely candidate is Nate Robinson.

He did a solid job early on filling in for Rajon Rondo as a starter.

But Robinson's play has taken a step back in recent weeks, making it more likely that West will eventually become a backup to Rondo and, potentially, Ray Allen.

At 6-foot-3, West gives the Celtics a bigger player who is also more versatile.

West, who suffered a broken right wrist injury on Nov. 24, can play both guard positions. And depending on the opponent and the lineup on the floor, he could give the C's some minutes at the small forward position as well.

But aside from his physical attributes, West provides a certain toughness to the C's bench that's unmatched among Boston's backups.

West getting minutes over Robinson should not be viewed as Robinson being a bad player or anything like that.

Actually, it says more about the C's depth than it does about Robinson.

THE BIG FOUR

The All-Star Game will be here in a couple weeks, and the Boston Celtics are sure to be well represented.

Boston should lead all teams with at least four players selected.

If you've paid attention to the Eastern Conference this season, it's clear Rajon Rondo has established himself as one of the NBA's top point guards.

To the casual fan, any top-five list of point guards this season has to include Rondo, who is the NBA's assists leader with 12.9 per game.

He'll also be joined by Kevin Garnett, who has regained his '08 form. He missed nine games because of a muscle strain in his lower right leg, but has returned to action and appears well on his way to getting back to where he was this season prior to the injury.

Paul Pierce is a definite All-Star this season. In fact, one can argue that of all the seasons Pierce has been named to the All-Star team, this might be his most impressive season.

His scoring average doesn't overwhelm you.

But when you look at how efficient he has been, which is rare for a high-volume shooter so advanced into their career, there's no doubt he has been one of the top two or three small forwards in the East this season.

And last but certainly not least, you have Ray Allen.

At 35 years old, it's amazing how well Allen has played in helping lead the Celtics to the best record in the Eastern Conference.

Like Pierce, Allen has enjoyed a renaissance of sorts this season.

On track to become the NBA's all-time leader in 3-pointers made this season, Allen is also shooting a career-high 45.3 percent from 3-point range.

When you look at what they've done, coupled with the Celtics success this season, it's a no-brainer.

Boston's Big Four will be all-stars next month.

FLIP (THE SWITCH) MODE?

After a recent loss at Washington, it brought back memories of last season when there were far too many losses to bad teams by Boston.

When the season ended, C's players bemoaned how those setbacks cost them home-court advantage throughout most of the playoffs, including the NBA Finals.

This season, 5 of the C's 10 losses have been to teams at or below-.500.

But there is a difference with this year.

Those losses, if anything, seem to re-focus this team on what they have to do in order to be successful.

Following a loss to Cleveland early in the season, Boston reeled off five straight wins.

And after a one-point loss at Toronto, the C's got Jalapeo-hot by winning 14 straight.

The Celtics had two sets of back-to-back losses, and ran off winning streaks of five and four games, respectively.

So as disappointing as it might have seemed to lose to the woeful Wizards, just remember.

Such losses should not be seen as trouble.

Instead, they serve as a heads-up that the C's are about to start rolling over teams and a nice winning streak is coming.

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Jaylen Brown may be the future of Celtics, but he's focused on now

Jaylen Brown may be the future of Celtics, but he's focused on now

BOSTON – This is not how this is supposed to work.

When the regular season ends for high draft picks, there’s usually a nice, warm island awaiting their arrival in late-April when the regular season ends.

But this was no typical rookie season for Boston’s Jaylen Brown.

And as we have seen, Brown isn’t your typical rookie.

Drafted with the third overall pick in last June’s NBA draft, the 6-foot-7 Brown found himself in the rotation on a Celtics team that advanced all the way to the Eastern Conference finals before having their season end at the hands of the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.

The path towards individual and team success is littered with struggles and potholes of strife along with the pain of disappointment cluttering up things as well.

From within that rubble lies promise; the kind that has Celtics Nation justifiably excited about the future of Brown with the Celtics.

But Brown isn’t about the future, folks.

“I’m excited about the now,” he said. “I’m excited about this summer. I try not to look too far ahead. Everybody talks about the future and how much potential we have; I’m worried about the now. I want to be part of the now. That’s all I’m focused on.”

That kind of focus is among the many reasons that despite being a rookie, his teammates quickly sensed that the now-20-year-old had his sights set on not just talking about cracking the rotation but actually putting in the work that would leave head coach Brad Stevens no choice but to play him.

“He’s going to be really good,” said Boston’s Gerald Green. “If he keeps his same mentality; he’s humble. And continue to work on his game and continue to learn.

Green added, “he couldn’t be in a better place, than being here. With his talent and his work ethic, he’s going to be great.”

But like most rookies, Brown’s play was anything but a steady on-the-rise movement.

His first NBA start came on the road at Cleveland on Nov. 3.

Boston lost the game, but Brown won over many with his career-high 19 points while spending a good deal of the night guarding LeBron James.

In his next four games, Brown scored a total of just 17 points.

And in Boston’s first-round series with Chicago, Brown's role shrunk in the last four games – all Celtics wins. In those games, he played a total of just under 10 minutes.

So what did he do?

He got back in the gym, continued to work on his game and do a better job at making the most of the minutes he received.

More than anything else, Brown attributes his improved play as the season progressed to simply figuring out the NBA landscape as far as what he could do and what he needed to work on, to get better.

Which is why there are many who believe that Brown will be a much better player than the one we saw this season.

That said, he still had decent numbers – 6.6 points and 2.8 rebounds while shooting 45.4 percent from the field and 34.1 percent from 3-point range.

“I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, coming into the NBA,” Brown said. “Throughout the year, I don’t think people expected me to contribute as much as I did. Now just getting to the Eastern  Conference finals and losing, it builds a hunger you know;  I have a bad taste in my mouth. Gotta put in work during the offseason and come back stronger.”

Like Brown, Al Horford came into the NBA as a high draft pick who wound up in the playoffs that rookie season.

Horford can totally relate to Brown’s comments about not knowing what he was getting into.

“The first year you’re really feeling everything out,” Horford said. “Jaylen has an understanding now of what the league is about. It’s a lot for a rookie to handle. Now he has a better idea (so) he can just focus on getting better, working on his game and I expect him to be much better his second year.”

Brown will have the knowledge gained from being part of a team that came within three wins of getting to the NBA Finals.

To come that close is tough to accept, but Brown sees it all as part of a bigger plan for him and his role with the Celtics moving forward.

“I can use it as fuel. I’ve been learning all year,” Brown said. “I’ve had ups, I’ve had downs, I’ve had opportunities, I’ve had mistakes. So I’ve been learning and growing and improving all year and I’m going to continue to grow and improve and prove people wrong, prove doubters wrong.”

And that process Brown speaks of has certainly been aided by being in a successful situation like Boston compared to some other lottery picks who saw lots of playing time but showed minimal growth playing lots of minutes.

“Being on a winning team and developing good habits, learning how to win, play the game the right way … learning that at a young age is really going to help me,” Brown said. “A lot of young guys, they don’t learn that early. They have to figure it out three, four, five years in. I’m happy I learned it now.”

And while the learning will continue on for Brown during this offseason, it won’t be nearly as tough now than it was when he came into the league.

“I know exactly what I’m preparing for,” Brown said. “I expect a really different result.”

Brown added, “I want to be ready for whatever is thrown at me; no excuses whatsoever.”

Now that’s how this is supposed to work!